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Hike Through a River at the Narrows

By Barry Eitel

The Zion Narrows is located at the North Fork of the Virgin River in Zion National Park. It is a longtime favorite of hikers from across the globe, no matter the skill level.

The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and is widely known as one of the most gorgeous, bucket-list-worthy hikes on the planet. It’s also one of the most unusual – a good portion of the trail is IN the Virgin River itself, so bring sturdy sandals or other hiking shoes that can withstand some water. Hiking here is often described as “walking on slippery bowling balls.”

This gorge boasts canyon walls that are 1,000 feet tall and a width as narrow as 20 feet, so you’ll find yourself enclosed in nature. The vertical sandstone walls look like they came from another world, while the water flowing in the Virgin River is still as clear as it was before the first settlers set foot in the canyon. 

In a hurry? Escape the Utah heat with a short day hike into the Narrows from the Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava at the end of Zion Canyon. The more adventurous hikers will want to get an overnight permit to do the “Top to Bottom”, starting at Chamberlain Ranch, and leisurely enjoy all 16 miles of this gorgeous slot canyon.

Most visitors hike the Narrows in late spring or summer, when the river water is not only at its warmest but also at its lowest level, and you can wade with boots or swim your way through the canyon. But keep an eye out for the weather: God’s not done sculpting this area yet. Flash floods can quickly ruin your day.

There's even more to see in Zion National Park, including fantastic mountain landscapes, wildlife and pristine vistas of the unadulterated American West. Hike, swim, camp, horseback ride or float down the river – the region is rich in possibilities. Zion National Park is also one of the globe’s premier locales for “canyoneering,” if you’re looking for a new way to get around.